What do U.S. students know about climate change?



Ask introductory-level undergraduate students about climate change science, and you are likely to get some eyebrow-raising responses. For example, you may hear, “The greenhouse effect is caused by the hole in the ozone layer, which allows in more sunlight,” “The melting of floating sea ice will result in catastrophic flooding of our coastal areas,” or “Humans are not the main cause of climate change.” While students are clearly concerned about climate change (83% of students polled by Theissen [2008] were), recent work suggests that many have significant misconceptions about the fundamental science behind it. Considering the urgent nature of the issue and the important role that students will play as informed citizens and decision makers, geoscientists and educators may want to consider using strategies that better ensure students' climate literacy.